As of today there are about 2.3 million people locked up in prison in the United States. But is locking away the solution to having a safer community? The number of juveniles who are incarcerated is also rapidly rising; nonetheless, there are a few places that focus on restoration justice. Restoration justice is where the perpetrator, the victim, and family members come together to, in a way, heal the emotional wounds.
Many people are not aware of this kind of facility, and there is need for more media coverage. This article emphasizes the fact that mass incarceration is and has always been an issue that hasn’t been dealt with or given adequate attention. But are restoration centers a promising way to improve our criminal justice system?
Felicia Gustin, “Can Restorative Justice Save Us? A Look at an Alternative to Mass Incarceration,” Wartime, November 4, 2013. http://www.war-times.org/can-restorative-justice-save-us-look-alternative-mass-incarceration
Student Researcher: Fabiola Garcia, Indian River State College
Faculty Evaluator: Elliot Cohen, Indian River State College
Imprisonment has long been the punishment given to people who have broken laws; however, in recent studies the number of people being incarcerated has doubled over the course of 30 years. The rate of young teens being placed in juvenile is alarming as well. Crime has become what seems to be a trend that is only rising steadly. According to Felicia Gustin, the Restoration Community Conferencing Program has a better chance of helping the community to be safer due to the fact that it deals with the person’s mental, emotional, and physical issues. This program certainly raises some essential questions: what is the ethical thing to do with juvenile offenders, and is it morally correct to jeopardize the dignity along with the emotions of their victims?
Even though it is little known, there are places around the country that have centers where the perpetrator and victim socialize and discuss what harm was done and how it can be repaired. There are many factors that contribute to the belief that there are more pros than cons to this type of organization. Traumatizing cases such as rape can scar a person for life and can even cause serious issues, for instance, depression. Although this community aims to reduce pain and suffering, there are many glitches with it, nevertheless, such as that closure cannot be obtained in some cases due to the severity of the crime. Is it morally correct to place the victim in a position where he or she feels uncomfortable and may be afraid? The emotional harm caused to an individual can easily be overlooked or ignored by the legal system, thus, creating a cycle of increased suffering for the victim through a form of re-victimization.
Nevertheless, the article raises a critical question: “’…Is a community safe because you lock up every other black youth? Or is a community safe because those youth have things to do and their community is able to support them and some of their dreams and hopes can come true?”’ Nowadays young teens are falling into bad situations and maybe what they need is attention or having some life-long goals in order to stay out of trouble. Locking young people in prison can only solve the problem temporarily simply because they’re not out on the streets causing trouble; nonetheless, statistics show that criminal behavior increases in prison. This simply means that once a prisoner is free (if free at all) he or she will eventually return to his or her bad ways and end up back in prison, whereas in a restoration center, the juvenile offender can directly address the issues that have lead him or her to act out, whether it be a problem stemming from childhood experiences or other possible situations. The idea of having restoration centers raises the prospects of hope for the future. Not enough attention, not enough care, and not enough valuable time can really make or break a person. Although a person may have committed a crime, treating the person with compassion can help him or her realize over time how badly he or she acted and how he or she might make constructive changes for the future. Most of the country isn’t aware of this prison alternative, and as Gustin mentions, it will take a lot more than just a few people for the justice system to change.
Restorative justice seeks to do exactly that—restore. Punishing people is fairly easy to do and at the pace this world is going there is going to be more people in prison than there are people roaming the streets. If we take a look at how we think and where our morals stand we should all have one thing in common: Regardless of our cultural and personal points of view, we should try to make this world a better place for ourselves and for our future generations. Perhaps the Restoration Community Conferencing Program can help.